The most lucrative personal brands we work with are people whom I lovingly refer to as “corporate defectors.” Perhaps you identify as the same. You amassed experience from working at a larger company, had some fundamental “ahas” and decided to strike out on your own to enjoy more freedom and fulfillment by teaching others your expertise.
This makes sense. Corporations are rich breeding grounds for thought leaders and can immediately instill credibility in your personal brand (This is why you see so many folks with headlines on LinkedIn that include phrases like “ex-Google”).
But for all the credibility and applicable experience you take from corporate to channel into your new consulting business, you can also carry over some “bad” corporate habits that limit the potential of your personal brand.
Here are 5 corporate habits to discard along with your name tag when you say “Adios!” to your W2 and start your personal brand and business building journey:
❌ Using jargon
The aim of building your personal brand is to help people who are further behind you get to where you are by sharing insights, inspiration, tips, and more. When you eliminate the use of jargon, you:
- Enhance clarity and understanding: Jargon can create confusion and barriers to comprehension, especially for those who are not familiar with the specific terminology used in your industry or field. Clear and concise language helps convey your message effectively, ensuring that your content is easily digestible and understood by your target audience.
- Foster inclusivity: Jargon can be exclusionary, as it assumes prior knowledge or expertise in a particular subject. Using accessible language on social media helps create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome and can engage with your content regardless of their background or level of expertise.
- Improve brand perception: Brands that communicate in a relatable and understandable manner are often seen as approachable, trustworthy, and customer-centric. By eliminating jargon, you can create a positive brand image, demonstrating that you prioritize effective communication and value your audience's understanding.
- Increase shareability and virality: Social media thrives on content that is easily shareable and resonates with users. When your content is free from jargon and easy to understand, people are more likely to share it with their networks, leading to increased reach, engagement, and potential for virality.
❌ Writing for peers, not prospects
When I started creating content, my imposter syndrome was wielding the pen. Because I didn’t fully own my unique perspective and experiences, I hoped to “impress” my audience with how smart I sounded. Looking back, I wish I could hug that newly-minted entrepreneur and tell her, “Your audience is excited to learn from you, not judge you. Focus on helping the people who will value your journey, and stop trying to legitimize yourself with those who are further ahead on it.”
Now I’m not saying don’t be the bold, confident, and brilliant person you are, but I am here to remind you that there is no secret society of ordaining experts grading whether you cut the mustard. (There are just a whole bunch of audience members who want to learn what you’ve learned.) So stop trying to dazzle people with smart-sounding, clever bits, and start trying to teach them with clear, simple messaging.
❌ Not sharing more about your personality/personal life
I was bred in the world of finance. The environment was so rigid that leadership’s idea of “letting our hair down” was wearing khakis on Tuesday (with a company-branded shirt) and “allowing us” to PAY $5 to wear jeans on Friday. So, it’s really no wonder that I thought being a credible expert meant that I had to keep things “all business all the time.” This manifested in several ways:
- I wouldn’t share personal stories that my readers could relate to
- I continued to wear the most God-awful boring clothes to personal brand photoshoots
- I wrote in a rigid voice
The results? Crickets 🦗
So, don’t present like you’re issuing a corporate memo. People want to do business with humans (not robots) that they know, like, and trust.
Sharing stories that express your personal values, wearing clothes that make you feel your best, and speaking like you would in a conversation are the ticket.
❌ Watering down your message and/or products to be palatable
I cannot tell you how many budding thought leaders I work with that say things like:
“Well this is what I really want to do and say, but this is what I’m saying and offering so corporations will hire me.”
To gain a share of voice, create a category all your own, and build a Brene Brown-level following, you need to stop aiming for “palatable.” Palatable is the opposite of inspiration. Palatable is the opposite of illuminating. Palatable is…well, the enemy of electric brand building.
Risha Grant, an industry-leading speaker and author I’ve had the pleasure of working with, has framed all of her messaging about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging around “Getting rid of BS!” and guess what? She has a WAIT LIST of major corporations waiting to hire her for keynotes.
Stop trying to appeal to the corporate masses with vanilla content when people really want Cherry Garcia.
❌ Not changing up your environment or schedule
This one is more of a mindset shift, but good content comes from clear thinking, so I’m going to let you in on what became a game-changing secret for me:
Switch up your environment and/or schedule.
Many “corporate defectors” are gold old-fashioned Type A’s. We love a routine, we are disciplined beyond belief, and we got to be awesome corporate warriors because we did all of our homework and aced our way to success.
This work ethic is AH-MAZING and will keep you consistent even during the most challenging times of entrepreneurship.
And yet…It limits your creativity and blue-sky thinking.
I find my best content comes from walking through Central Park, trying new experiences, heading to a coffee shop or new restaurant, and listening to talks, books, and podcasts. Unfortunately, I used to consider these activities as luxuries and file them under the “You get this reward after you do all your client work like a good consultant.”
The problem with this mindset is that these activities are not indulgences standing in the way of “doing.” They are fundamental activities you need to engage with to promote “thinking” which is your top-dollar activity. But it doesn’t feel like this because in corporate we were so judged on “doing” and not “thinking” and “creating.”
Discard this false belief as soon as you can, because I promise you, the creativity, insights, and inspiration you glean from prioritizing thinking and being inspired will pay more dividends for your personal brand than “doing” (email answering, designing in Canva, admin work) ever will.